The Juárez Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de Juárez), also known as the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization, is a Mexican drug cartel based in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas. The Juárez Cartel controls one of the primary transportation routes for billions of dollars worth of illegal drug shipments annually entering the United States from Mexico.
Drug lords from contiguous Mexican states have forged alliances in recent years creating a cartel that sometimes is referred to as 'The Golden Triangle Alliance' or 'La Alianza Triángulo de Oro' because of its three-state area of influence: Chihuahua, south of the U.S. state of Texas, Durango and Sinaloa. The Juarez Cartel is a ruthless, dangerous drug trafficking organization that has been known to decapitate their rivals and mutilate their corpses and dump them in public to instill fear not only to the general public but to local law enforcement and their rivals, the Sinaloa Cartel.
The cartel was founded in the 1970s by Rafael Aguilar Guajardo and handed down to Amado Carrillo Fuentes in 1993 under the tutelage of his uncle.
Amado brought his brothers in and later his son into the business. After Amado died in 1997 following complications from plastic surgery, a brief turf war erupted over the control of the cartel, where Amado's brother —Vicente Carrillo Fuentes— emerged as leader after defeating the Muňoz Talavera brothers.
Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who still remains in control of the cartel, then formed a partnership with Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, his brother Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, his nephew Vicente Carrillo Leyva, Ricardo Garcia Urquiza, and formed an alliance with other drug lords such as Ismael "Mayo" Zambada in Sinaloa and Baja California, the Beltrán Leyva brothers in Monterrey, and Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán in Nayarit, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas, according to sources in the FBI and the Mexican Attorney General's office. He also kept in service several lieutenants formally under his brother, such as "El Chacky" Hernandez.
When Vicente took control of the cartel, the organization was in flux. The death of Amado created a large power vacuum in the Mexican underworld. The Carrillo Fuentes brothers became the most powerful organization during the 1990s while Vicente was able to avoid direct conflict and increase the strength of the Juárez Cartel. The relationship between the Carrillo Fuentes clan and the other members of the organization grew unstable towards the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s.
In 2001 after Joaquín Guzmán Loera 'El Chapo' escaped from prison, many Juárez Cartel members defected to Guzmán Loera's Sinaloa Cartel. In 2004, Vicente's brother was killed allegedly by order of Guzmán Loera. Carrillo Fuentes responded by assassinating Guzmán Loera's brother in prison. This ignited a turf war between the two cartels, which was more or less put on hold from 2005-2006 because of the Sinaloa Cartel's war with the Gulf cartel.
As recently as November 2005, the Juárez Cartel was the dominant player in the center of the country, controlling a large percentage of the cocaine traffic from Mexico into the United States. The death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes in 1997, however, was the beginning of the decline of the Juárez cartel, as Carrillo relied on ties to Mexico's top-ranking drug interdiction officer, division general Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo.
After the organization collapsed, some elements of it were absorbed into the Sinaloa Cartel, a relatively young and aggressive organization that has gobbled up much of the Juárez Cartel's former territory. The cartel has been able to either corrupt or intimidate high ranking officials in order to obtain information on law enforcement operatives and acquire protection from the police and judicial systems.
The Juárez cartel has been found in 21 Mexican states and its principal bases are Culiacán, Monterrey, Ciudad Juárez, Ojinaga, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Cuernavaca and Cancún. Vicente Carrillo Fuentes remains the leader of the cartel.
Since 2007, the Juárez Cartel has been locked in a vicious battle with its former partner, the Sinaloa Cartel, for control of Juárez. The fighting between them has left thousands dead in Chihuahua state. The Juárez Cartel relies on two enforcement gangs to exercise control over both sides of the border: La Linea, a group of current and former Chihuahua police officers, is prevalent on the Mexican side, while the large street gang Barrio Azteca operates in Mexico and the U.S. in Texas cities such as El Paso, Dallas and Austin. as well as in New Mexico and Arizona.
On April 9, 2010, the Associated Press reported that the Sinaloa Cartel had won the Juarez turf war. Nevertheless, the Juarez Cartel has continued open confrontations with the Sinaloa Cartel and Mexican police forces. On July 15, 2010, the Juarez Cartel raised their attacks to a new level by using a car bomb to target federal police officers.
Members of the cartel were implicated in the serial murder site in Ciudad Juárez that was discovered in 2004 and has been dubbed the House of Death. The Juárez Cartel was featured battling the rival Tijuana Cartel in the 2000 motion picture Traffic. The Australian ABC documentary La Frontera (2010) described social impact of the cartel in the region.
Since February 2010, the major cartels have aligned in two factions, one integrated by the Juárez Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, Los Zetas and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel; the other faction integrated by the Gulf Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia Cartel.